Combining solar and agriculture in a Fraunhofer ISE project, land use efficiency with the agrophotovoltaic (APV) system increased to 186% in 2018, compared to 160% in 2017. (Photo Credit: Fraunhofer ISE)
- Fraunhofer ISE assessed the results of an agrophotovoltaic (APV) system installed in Germany using 194 kW PV array on a third of a hectare of arable land
- Mounted on a 5-meter structure, it allowed for better yield for the crops growing under it, while the power generated by the PV system also registered an annual increase of 2%
- Such an arrangement can also lead to providing farmers with increased source of income
- Arid climate zones can really benefit from such systems that also provides shade for crops and livestock
While some fear that solar ground mounted power plants at some point might run into space issues in certain regions, there are ways for optimisation. For example, it is possible to use solar systems for multiple purposes, such as for power generation and agricultural support. Fraunhofer ISE studied power generation and crop yield from a 194 kW of solar PV array put up on a third of a hectare of arable land mounted on a 5-meter high structure near Lake Constance in Germany. While in 2017, the land use efficiency was found to be 160% per hectare, in 2018 it has been found to have reached 186% per hectare.
The joint project called ‘Agrophotovoltaics-Resource Efficient Land Use (APV-RESOLA)’, discovered that the farmers of Heggelbach were able to increase the yields for 3 out of 4 crops grown under the agrophotovoltaic (APV) system that was greater than the reference yield.
Partial shading underneath the photovoltaic modules improved the agricultural yield, and the sun-rich summer increased the solar electricity production. Solar irradiation under the APV system was about 30% less than the reference field. Presence of the solar arrays was also responsible for distribution of precipitation and soil temperature.
Solar power generation from the panels in 2018 increased 2% annually to 249,857 kWh, with electricity production costs of such a system competitive with a small PV rooftop system. Further cost reductions due to economies of scale and learning effects are anticipated. Farmers will also be able to have an additional source of income if the electricity generated is stored and used on site.
Arid climate zones can benefit from such systems that also provides shade for crops and livestock.
“When politics allows, agrophotovoltaics can provide the answer to the “food or fuel” debate. From the technical point of view, farmers can harvest both. Through the dual use of arable land, the main task of food production is met. The additional solar electricity production contributes to the expansion of electric mobility and serves to protect the climate,” said Stephan Schindele of Fraunhofer ISE.
Fraunhofer says it is already working on several projects to transfer the technology to threshold and developing countries as well as for new applications.